Mr Ellwood, a member of Parliament's China Research Group, said Chinese activities in space emphasised the importance of Britain retaining access t
Mr Ellwood, a member of Parliament’s China Research Group, said Chinese activities in space emphasised the importance of Britain retaining access to the EU’s Galileo satellite constellation after the end of the year. China’s belligerent behaviour on the world stage, including its activities in the South China Sea, as well brutal clashes in Ladakh earlier this month which resulted in the deaths of at least 23 Indian soldiers, has been generating increasing concern in the international community. And Bournemouth East MP Mr Ellwood said Beijing’s ambitions stretched even further.
He told Express.co.uk: “You’ve got to look over the horizon and see what’s happening.
“I tweeted recently that with Beidou, which is the Chinese version, they have launched the last satellite they needed for that constellation.
“That means it is completely autonomous, it is independent. The DF41s, all its missiles, no longer need to rely on GPS.
“Which means that China will be wanting to take GPS out.
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Tobias Ellwood is concerned about a new era of space warfare
“They will do it is a very subtle way. They will send a bit of moon rock from one satellite, spit it out, or zap it with a bit of infrared radiation, something like that.
“It is already happening now – China have got satellites which orbit other satellites.
“It’s the OK Corral out there – nobody knows what’s happening and this is the danger that we face.”
Mr Ellwood added: “The frontier of conflict has now advanced.
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It’s the OK Corral out there
“It used to be like the Battle of Britain – if you ruled the skies you then dominated what happened beneath. Now it’s up in the heavens.”
The era of space warfare was on the verge of becoming a reality, Mr Ellwood warned.
He claimed: “Donald Trump has gone slightly mad pushing his Space Force but he is actually ahead of his time in recognising why it is important to have this capability.
“Nearly every single weapons system we have in the British Armed Forces relies on GPS.
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The British armed forces are heavily reliant on GPS
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“So you take out GPS and suddenly our military capability changes instantaneously.
“Our communications, our ability to direct weapons systems, apart from our nuclear warheads which actually go by lay of the land, they don’t need GPS, which is why they cost billions of pounds.”
For this reason, Mr Ellwood believes retaining access to the secure aspects of Galileo, which the UK faces the prospect of being excluded from as a result of Brexit, was particularly important, given its importance as a “back-up system” to GPS.
Conversely, he was highly sceptical about the prospect of the UK developing its own independent satellite constellation system.
He said: “We can’t afford it and who can we sell it to? The reason things like this make money is because a lot of people pay small amounts, like Facebook, because thousands of people pay tiny amounts to make it work.
“But if they are already on GPS or Galileo already it is not worth it.”
Speaking at the UK Space Conference last year, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister for Defence and Procurement, acknowledged the reliance of the British military on satellite technology.
Referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty negotiated by the US and the USSR, which declared space to be “the province of all mankind”, Ms Trevelyan said: “Noble sentiments with which I am sure everyone in this room agrees.
GPS is the United States’ global navigation system
“But we have to recognise that the world has moved on since then.
“Rogue states and all those who challenge the international order, and non-state actors are increasingly gaining access to the sort of high-tech equipment which was once the monopoly of NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries.
“Cyberattackers are using cheap hardware to try to scramble satellites and put observation data to their advantage.
“That’s why we and our close allies have determined it to be a warfighting domain.”